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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We’re either a racist nation or we’re not and it’s time to decide

The race issue wasn’t dormant before Arizona’s immigration law SB1070 was passed, but at least it had no established venue or sure-fire conveyance to run in. SB1070 gave it that and much more, from accusations that the Tea Party is a racist organization, to New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richard’s statement that the law “oks racial profiling,” to Howard Dean’s recent claim that Fox News is “absolutely racist” re. its coverage of the Shirley Sherrod story.

In the aftermath of all this, right wing radicals are spreading bigoted propaganda about how Blacks in power have some vendetta against whites. In an article, the Washington Post has urged President Obama to “stand up to the ‘reverse racism’ ploy,” but in the current state of affairs that could be political suicide. Or would it?

I grew up in a segregated South of the 1950s and 1960s, knew members of the Ku Klux Klan, and once lived very close to the Mississippi site of the Emmett Till murder. I played in a band that performed at a 1948 States Rights Party—also known as the Dixiecrats Party—rally, where J. Strom Thurmond was running for president. It was held in my then home town of Jackson, Tenn.

My father once took me to a Jackson beer hall when I was old enough to drink, and when I questioned some red necks who were openly disparaging Blacks using the “N” word, we quickly had to leave.

I discovered one day to my horror that one of my best friends was an avid racist; that is after I was finally “admitted” to his “study” where KKK material was all over the walls, on his desk, even piles of it on the floor. I often wondered what effect this had on his children, both of which were pre-teens.

It is hard to maintain an objective outlook on an issue with this kind of peer pressure, much less come to the conclusion that you were anti-racism, which I did, and, from which I have never faltered to this day. Big deal, you might say, but I do think it is. My hope is that there are others like myself out there.

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